Logging levels projected for this year and next in national forests with northern spotted owls would become mandatory minimums insulated from lawsuits under a proposal Sen. Slade Gorton offered Tuesday.
Gorton, R-Wash., said the measure he will press for in a Senate spending bill will dictate only half as much logging of dead and dying trees as the 3 billion board feet of salvage harvests called for in a similar Houseapproved bill.
But Gorton said his version also would order the U.S. Forest Service to meet logging quotas for live “green” timber in the Pacific Northwest’s federal forests, which would be exempt from environmental laws and free from most legal challenges.
Gorton said the mandatory logging levels in the green timber program would mimic projections the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have made for federal forests in Oregon, Washington and Northern California - 608 million board feet in the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and 727 million for fiscal year 1996 beginning Oct. 1.
“Everything we have in here is consistent with what this very green, very environmental administration has said are its own goals,” Gorton said.
“It seems to me it would be awfully difficult for the president to veto a bill that allows him to keep his own promises,” he said.
But the difference is the Clinton administration has indicated it will reach those goals only if it can do so within the confines of existing environmental laws.
The administration opposes efforts to insulate federal logging from citizens’ appeals and legal challenges.
Gorton said his plan, which exempts the logging from many environmental laws, “protects (against) a very, very wide range of legal challenges.” He said the mandated logging quotas still would be below the 1.1 billion board feet in annual harvests Clinton had projected for those forests over the next 10 years when he unveiled his Northwest forest protection plan two years ago.